Trial of civilians in military courts ‘totally unjustified,’ Pakistan’s top rights body says

Security personnel with ballistic shields escort former Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan (unseen) as he leaves from Islamabad High court in Islamabad on May 31, 2023, after Khan was granted bail in multiple cases. (AFP)
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Updated 31 May 2023
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Trial of civilians in military courts ‘totally unjustified,’ Pakistan’s top rights body says

  • Ex-PM Imran Khan’s May 9 arrest sparked violent protests, with supporters damaging military properties
  • Dozens of Khan supporters have been handed over to the military to be tried under Army Act since last week

ISLAMABAD: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), one of the oldest and most respected rights bodies in the country, on Wednesday called on the government not to try civilians who were involved in recent anti-government protests before military courts and opposed a ban on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of ex-premier Imran Khan.

A wave of violence engulfed Pakistan following the dramatic arrest of Khan from a courtroom in Islamabad earlier this month. Angry Khan supporters torched buildings and vehicles and attacked police and military personnel and facilities. Khan was later released on bail but the Pakistani army and government later announced they would try “the arsonists” involved in the violent protests under military laws. 

Since then, dozens of suspects have been handed over to the military for trials and on Tuesday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said Khan, as an “instigator” of the violence, would also be tried under army laws.

Military trials in Pakistan are usually held behind closed doors, depriving civilians of some of their basic rights, including contracting a lawyer of their choice.

“The trial of civilians in the military courts is totally unjustified,” HRCP chairperson Hina Jilani said at a press conference in Islamabad. “Civilians should be tried in ordinary courts to ensure transparency and fairness in the process.”

“HRCP objects to the arbitrary manner in which certain cases are selected to be tried by military courts, thereby violating the principle of equality before the law and equal protection of the law,” she said.

Since May 9, the government has also said it was considering banning Khan’s PTI party.

“We consider any step by the government to ban the PTI both reckless and disproportionate,” Jilani said. “In the long term, it would strengthen a bad precedent and prevent political parties from developing naturally in line with the wishes of their electorate.”

Khan, a former international cricket star, became prime minister in 2018 with the tacit support of the military, though both sides denied it at the time. He later fell out with generals and was ousted as prime minister after losing a parliamentary confidence vote in 2022.

Khan has since then been campaigning for a snap election, with rallies with his supporters across the country, but the prime minister who replaced him, Shahbaz Sharif, has rejected the call for an election before it is due in October this year.

HRCP said national elections should “under no circumstances” be delayed beyond October 2023.

“Such a step by the government would amount to derailing the democratic process and compound the current political instability,” Jilani said. “Anything less than free, fair and credible elections in an environment that allows the exercise of all fundamental freedoms will leave the country open to further ill-judged and undemocratic political experiments.”

The continuing political turmoil has exacerbated Pakistan’s economic crisis with inflation at record highs, growth is anemic amid fears of a sovereign default on external debts unless the International Monetary Fund (IMF) unlocks delayed disbursements.


Pakistan recalls injectable medicine amid eye infection reports, initiates probe

Updated 24 September 2023
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Pakistan recalls injectable medicine amid eye infection reports, initiates probe

  • The interim health minister assures the public of transparent inquiry, vows to prosecute those responsible
  • The government had received complaints related to loss of sight among diabetic patients using Avastin in Punjab

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interim health minister Nadeem Jan said on Sunday the government had recalled an injectable medicine from the market after receiving reports it had caused eye infections and loss of sight among patients in the Kasur, Multan, Lahore, and Sadiqabad districts located in the eastern Punjab province.
According to media reports, the caretaker administration in Punjab formed a five-member committee to investigate the issue, following complaints related to a locally manufactured injection called Avastin which was used by diabetic patients in the province.
The federal health minister invited his provincial counterpart to Islamabad to discuss the issue in the wake of this development. He said authorities had launched an investigation and would soon assign responsibility for the matter.
“Investigations are ongoing,” Jan said in a televised statement. “A committee has been formed, comprising five of our most senior experts, who will analyze the issue from all angles and provide us with a comprehensive report within the next three days.”
“As of now, the batch of medicine in question has been recalled,” he continued. “It is now in our possession, and its sales are prohibited.”
The minister explained the investigation team was tasked with determining whether the problem was caused by the medicine itself, issues in its supply chain, the skill level of the administering doctors, or the sterilization process.
He added the government had filed a police report against two individuals representing the supply company and had initiated legal action against them.
Jan assured the public of a transparent inquiry, adding the authorities would share their findings and prosecute those responsible for causing harm to patients.


Asian Games: Sri Lanka beat Pakistan to set up India cricket final

Updated 24 September 2023
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Asian Games: Sri Lanka beat Pakistan to set up India cricket final

  • Pakistan manage below-par 75-9 in 20 overs against Sri Lanka 
  • Pakistan and Bangladesh will face off for bronze on Monday

HANGZHOU, China: In-form Sri Lanka, fresh from a stunning Twenty20 series victory in England, beat Pakistan by six wickets on Sunday to reach the women’s cricket final at the Asian Games and set up a clash with India.
Pakistan never got going on a difficult batting surface affected by days of rain at the Zhejiang University of Technology ground in Hangzhou, and could only muster a below-par 75-9 in their 20 overs.
Left-arm medium pace bowler Udeshika Prabodhani led the Sri Lankan attack with three wickets and Kavisha Dilhari took two with her offspin.
Sri Lanka sauntered to their target with 21 balls to spare to spark wild celebrations as their players ran on to the field to high-five and hug each other.
Earlier, the Indians routed Bangladesh for 51 on the same ground with all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar, only drafted into the squad as a last-minute replacement, taking four wickets.
They wasted no time in racing to an eight-wicket victory with more than 11 overs remaining as Jemimah Rodrigues top-scored with an unbeaten 20.
Rodrigues is yet to be dismissed in the Asian Games, scoring 47 not out in the quarter-final against Malaysia, which was later abandoned because of rain.
It was the second time in just over a week that Sri Lankan cricketers had proven party-poopers by preventing a Pakistan-India major cricket final.
The country’s men’s team beat Pakistan in the semifinal of the 50-over Asia Cup in Colombo to prevent a final showdown against their fierce rivals India.
Earlier this month, Sri Lanka’s women secured a historic first-ever white-ball series triumph over England, winning 2-1.
Pakistan and Bangladesh will face off for bronze on Monday before India take on Sri Lanka in the gold-medal match.


Train crash in eastern Pakistan injures at least 30

Updated 24 September 2023
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Train crash in eastern Pakistan injures at least 30

  • Lahore-bound passenger train collides with another in Shaikhupura district
  • Railway authorities suspend driver, assistant, two members of ground staff

LAHORE: A passenger train collided with another already parked and carrying goods in eastern Pakistan on Sunday, injuring at least 30 passengers, five of them seriously, officials said.

Railway authorities suspended the driver of the Lahore-bound passenger train, his assistant and two of the ground staff for negligence as an investigation has been opened, said top railways official Shahid Aziz.

Aziz said the incident happened in Shaikhupura district near Qila Sattar Shah station early morning as the passenger train which left Mianwali for Lahore was directed to the track where the goods train was already parked.

He said most of the injured were treated at the train station, but those with serious injuries were moved to hospital and the tracks were quickly cleared.

Such accidents are common in Pakistan where railways suffer from decades-old signal systems and tracks.


Ex-PM Khan’s party welcomes anti-terror court’s decision to grant bail to women supporters

Updated 24 September 2023
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Ex-PM Khan’s party welcomes anti-terror court’s decision to grant bail to women supporters

  • Former lawmaker Rubina Jamil, social media activist among nine granted bail by anti-terror court in Lahore
  • Khan’s supporters were arrested for attacking the residence of Lahore Corps Commander on May 9

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party leaders on Sunday welcomed an Anti-Terrorism Court’s (ATC) decision to grant bail to nine PTI supporters, among them five women, in a case relating to the attack on a senior military officer’s residence months ago.

An ATC in Lahore granted post-arrest bail to former PTI MNA Rubina Jamil and eight others on Saturday who were arrested on charges of attacking the official residence of the Lahore Corps Commander on May 9. 

Angry PTI supporters took to the streets following Khan’s brief arrest on May 9 on graft allegations, torching government buildings and attacking military installations in many parts of the country. Scores of people were arrested for attacking the senior military officer’s Lahore residence, among them former lawmakers Alia Hamza and Rubina Jamil, and prominent fashion designer Khadijah Shah. 

Following the protests, police registered cases against the suspects under Section 121 (waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against Pakistan), Section 131 (abetting mutiny, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty) and Section 146 (rioting) under the Pakistan Penal Code. 

While the ATC granted bail to Jamil, social media activist Sanam Javed, Afshan Tariq, Shahbano, Ashima Shuja, Mubeen Qadri, Syed Faisal Akhtar, Ali Hassan, and Mohammad Qasim, the same was denied to 39 others including Hamza and Shah. 

“A welcome first step,” PTI leader and former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa finance minister Taimur Khan Jhagra wrote on social media platform X. 

“The 9 given bail must be released. It is the reputation of the state that suffers when justice is seen not to be served, as is the case here.”

Jhagra said that “not a shred” of evidence of arson or destruction of public property linking PTI’s supporters to the acts of May 9 has been found. 

Former PTI MNA Ali Muhammad Khan agreed with Jhagra, saying that the women who were granted bail should be released too. 

“No doubt our sisters have endured alot and now when given bail by ATC they must be released & allowed to re-join their families and kids,” he wrote on X. 

 While Khan insists he did not instigate supporters to attack law enforcers on May 9, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said on Sept. 3 that the protests were aimed at starting a mutiny or civil war in the country. 

“I think its target as a nucleus was the serving army chief and the team around him. All of them,” Kakar had said during an interview with a private news channel. 

While Khan’s party alleges it is being victimized, Kakar has said the law would take its course and PTI supporters would not be targeted unfairly by military courts. 


World Cup: Pakistan Cricket Board says team to leave for India on Wednesday

Updated 24 September 2023
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World Cup: Pakistan Cricket Board says team to leave for India on Wednesday

  • Development takes place amid reports of visa delays for Pakistan cricket team 
  • The squad will kick off their World Cup campaign against Netherlands on Oct. 6

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s cricket team will leave for India to take part in the showpiece 50-over World Cup tournament on Wednesday, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a statement on Sunday. 

The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup will get underway from Oct. 5 in India till Nov. 19. Skipper Babar Azam’s side will begin its World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on Oct. 6 before taking on Sri Lanka on Oct. 10. On Oct. 14, Pakistan will face India in Ahmedabad in a big-ticket clash. 

This will be the first time the Pakistan men’s national squad will play cricket on Indian soil since 2016, when Pakistan took part in the T20 World Cup hosted by India that year. 

“Pakistan are scheduled to depart for Hyderabad in the wee hours of Wednesday,” the PCB said in a statement. “Babar Azam’s side will play their first warm-up on 29 September against New Zealand and the second and last against Australia on 3 October.”

The PCB said Team Director Mickey Arthur will join the side by Sept. 30 in India for the megaevent. 

Pakistan’s plans to depart for India come amid media reports that its players are still awaiting visas to travel to India. Cricket website ESPNcricinfo said in a report that Pakistan were forced to cancel a team bonding trip in Dubai as the team was waiting for their visas to arrive on Friday. 

“The Pakistan squad was due to fly to the UAE early next week and stay for a couple of days before flying to Hyderabad, ahead of their first warm-up game against New Zealand on September 29,” ESPNcricinfo said. 

“Instead, Pakistan now plan to fly out of Lahore to Dubai early next Wednesday and fly to Hyderabad from there.”

As per the website, out of the nine teams participating in the World Cup, Pakistan remains the only one awaiting visas to travel to India. 

Political tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors mean India and Pakistan play each other only at international venues. The last time a bilateral series was played between the two sides was in 2013 when Pakistan traveled to India for a cricket series.